Friday, July 20, 2012

Goatee, You Will Be Missed

Yet another sad day has come.  Goatee, my 6-year-old Nigerian Dwarf pet goat was found dead yesterday afternoon.  The kids had gone to play with him again and take him for a walk, one of their favorite activities.  Earlier yesterday morning, they had taken him out on his leash to let him savor weeds and tasty treats outside the barnlot.  The very same varieties that grow within the barnlot, yet he seemed to relish the ones outside the fence so much more.  He adored attention and loved for the kids to pet and play with him.  For years now, Goatee has been a companion when I took walks around the farm.  In the cool weather, he would be quite frisky, standing on his hind legs and raising his back hair, then bouncing away and back to me when he wanted to play.  He would stand up tall and make a growling sound in his throat, with a silly goat grin on his face, but never once did he ever butt me.  Instead, pushing his head gently into my leg or hand to indicate he wanted me to push him and play.
Alas, he was not so gentle with the dogs or sheep and I believe this was his undoing.  From the evidence found at the scene, it would appear he may have picked a fight with his barn companion, a large ewe by the name of Belle.  Many times I had seen Goatee challenging Belle and warned him that was not a good idea.  I did not foresee that she may finally have enough of his shenanigans and cause him serious harm, as she always regarded him with irritated patience.  It seems she must have finally butted him back, in the side, ramming him up against one of the timbers in the barn where he fell and lay still.
We will miss you, Goatee.  I will miss your happy, mischievous spirit.  I will miss your bleats asking to be let out as you peer through the bars of the barnlot gate watching me work in the yard.  I will even miss you escaping from your pen and trotting directly over to the yard, nosing up the gate latch in order to come in and much roses, especially the prettiest and freshest blooms.  We will miss your little goat nibbles and gently taking treats from small hands.  We were blessed to know you and hope you are now kicking up your heels and dancing in deep clover and fresh rose petals.
Until next time, may we all live so that we are missed after we are gone.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Season of Sadness

Now that the holidays are behind us, I must report a sad event.  We had to have Jordan's beloved Great Pyrenees,Chuck, put to sleep on November 30th as he had become increasingly aggressive..  About a year ago, he turned on the sheep and killed three last fall.  After much research, discussion, and soul-searching it was decided that he would become Jordan's companion instead of a livestock guard dog.  He adapted very well to living inside Jordan's house on the Ione farm and was an excellent companion, riding in the pickup and accompanying Jordan on trips, whether they were just out doing farm work, taking their daily run, or visiting friends out of town.  His role as Jordan's constant companion was further cemented when, shortly after becoming a house dog, a fire began in the wiring of the old farmhouse they were living in.  Chuck jumped on Jordan's bed, barking an alarm and waking Jordan in time to put the fire out before much damage was done.  Even though we could no longer trust him around livestock, he was such a joyful dog, and was wonderful around cats, chickens, and kids.  It seemed Chuck had found a different niche than what we had intended for him, as he had saved Jordan's life and had so many other valuable qualities.  He also dearly loved his chickens and protected them from predators such as raccoons and opossums, or other dogs.

Unfortunately, this fall, as the weather began to cool, Chuck became harder to manage, even chasing cats, who he had always done so well with.  He also began growling at us if we disciplined him in any way.  Jordan had done extensive submission training with him to make sure he never became aggressive toward people, but something was wrong.  This aggressive behavior culminated one night as Chuck had accidentally gotten out and killed sheep once again.  We caught him in the act and he ended up turning on Jordan and biting him, breaking skin and severely bruising Jordan's forearms even through a heavy coat.  After consulting with the vet, the heart-wrenching decision was made to have Chuck put down.  It is hard to have an old or injured pet put down, but a physically healthy dog in the prime of his life who has been such a protector and companion is an entirely different thing.  But he could no longer be trusted and he was too powerful and adept at killing.  If he was willing to hurt Jordan, what might he be capable of with someone he had no bond with?

I believe strongly that a cherished family pet deserves to have their family with them when they die, so Jordan and I stayed with Chuck as the vet administered the medication.  As Jordan stroked his head and ears, his eyes locked trustingly on mine until they closed and he lay down with a gentle sigh.  As the tears flowed freely in that exam room, I only hoped he could forgive us all for what had to be done.

We took him home on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon and buried him next to his old friend, Roxy, on the hill overlooking the house and barn.  It was a warm and sunny afternoon, so mild for the last day of November.  Suddenly, a red and black butterfly appeared, fluttered around my head, landing for a brief second, then flying to Jordan where it also circled him several times before disappearing into the sunlight.  Through the tears, the healing and forgiveness had begun.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chicken Barn Progress

The chickens are enjoying the lights Jordan installed in the chicken barn.  The extra light during these short days will help to keep the eggs coming and the heat lamps supply a bit of extra warmth during the chilly nights. We also have one permanent roost up and will soon be putting up more to eliminate those beautiful Tidy Cats buckets!

The hens have been making good use of the nest boxes.

And filling up the egg buckets.

Jordan also installed lights in the small chicken house behind the barn.  And just in time for this Buff Orpington hen to move in with her two new babies.  Silly hen to hatch little ones this late in the year!

This Japanese banty chick who was hatched in September hunkers down in the tall grass to get out of the wind.

This handsome little rooster is one who a little black banty hen hatched back in June.

The rosecomb on this Silver-Spangled Hamburg rooster is quite interesting.  He seems to be very proud of it and enjoyed posing for the camera.

This rosecomb Brown Leghorn seems to be yelling out a message to the world.  I'm not sure if it is a message of pride of alarm, though!
Until next time, may your messages of pride not be confused with alarms!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another Outlaw Taken Out

Last night a good-sized raccoon attempted to help himself to chicken dinner, but the dogs are quite protective of their chickens and made short work of the thief. 

Ranger naps while the chickens scratch for bugs around him.

Chuck stays alert while Big Red and a Barred Rock pullet forage.

And Cordell stays on guard to make sure the raccoon doesn't cause any more trouble.

The raccoon did manage to take a bite out of one of the Speckled Sussex pullets and she was bleeding a bit from the leg and thigh area last night after the attack, but appears to be okay today.

Until next time, may the outlaws in your life be served with the justice they deserve.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Webbed feet in the Wheat

The irrigation risers into the wheat field were open this afternoon, making a very pleasant temporary wetland for geese and ducks.

Puddles of water and spilled wheat on a warm September afternoon are like heaven to these guys!

This handsome fellow is Einer (Enar), a blue Swedish duck who came to live with us about 3 weeks ago.  He is very sweet, enjoying treats fed to him by hand and also likes to be handled and petted.  Unfortunately, he is not so sweet to the dogs and chases them mercilessly, sneaking up behind them and yanking hair from the backs of their legs.  This is especially offensive to the dogs when they are sound asleep, but Einer seems to delight in making the dogs jump and run away.  I have tried locking him out of the yard, shutting all of the gates, but he always finds a way in, so Einer has to be locked in a large dog kennel in the barn, complete with plenty of feed and a pool of water, and only gets to come out when I can keep a close eye on him so he doesn't end up beheaded by one of the dogs as they reach the end of their patience with him.  He is miserable locked away, but until he learns to leave the dogs alone, it is for the best.
Einer's mate, Ulrika, was a black Swedish duck.  She was a beautiful little hen and had a puffy crest of feathers on the top of her head, like a small, silly hat.  She had begun laying eggs, so when she disappeared several days ago, I figured she had located a suitable nesting site.  She never chased the dogs, so I hadn't penned her up like Einer.  Sadly, on Friday, I found her lifeless little body on the front porch, behind a plant.  Not a mark was on her, not a feather out of place, so I am certain the dogs didn't take revenge for Einer's ill deeds, but really have no ideas as to what may have happened to her.  And I had begun entertaining hopes of a small flock of Swedish ducks living in the barnyard.  Now that Ulrika is gone, Einer seems to be a bit more interested in hanging out with the geese instead of chasing the dogs, but he won't regain his freedom until he decides to stay in the barnyard and leave the dogs in peace.

The geese came to live with us last spring.  They are both ganders, so won't be producing any eggs or goslings to add to the flock.  They are Chinese geese, a very loud, talkative breed.  While some geese can be aggressive, these two have always kept their distance and have not shown any aggression, except occasionally toward the sheep, who don't seem to be too upset by the threats.  I bought the geese in an attempt to help keep predators away from the chickens, but they instead bonded with the sheep and prefer to stay with them whenever possible.  Watching the geese run and fly behind the sheep when we move pastures is a pretty amusing sight.

Headed back toward the barn after a good time splashing, preening, and eating.  While they were at first quite resistant to being moved out into the wheat field, my webbed-footed friends enjoyed themselves immensely once they saw the delightful, and unexpected, puddles and feed.
Until next time, may all of your hesitations be replaced with delight.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Chicks on the Move

The chicks have outgrown their original brooder and moved to their new home. While the inside of the coop is not too much bigger than their previous space, they now have a fenced yard which adds quite a lot of space for stretching their wings.

Ancona chick, 4 weeks old
While they were pretty hesitant at first to enter their new yard, it didn't take too long for the more adventurous in the bunch to head into unknown territory.

Black crossbred banty chick, 5 weeks old
The little black banties are a week older than the rest and most of their chick fluff has now been replaced by real feathers.

Speckled Sussex chick, 4 weeks old
The Speckled Sussex chicks have also replaced much of their down.
White Orpington Chick, 4 weeks old
Light Brahma chick, 4 weeks old
The White Orpingtons and Light Brahmas seem to have feathers on their bodies, but their heads are still fluff.
Partridge Cochin chick, 4 weeks old

Free hatchery mystery chick, 4 weeks old
But, oh my goodness, the Partridge Cochins and free mystery bird are pretty pitiful this week.  I know the Cochins will be very handsome birds when they are grown, but the mystery bird?  Hmmm, I guess only time can answer that question!
Until next time, may time be kind to your countenance!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Growing Up

It did not take long for the baby chicks to outgrow their stock tank.  In fact they were only in it for a day before I tipped it on its side to give them more room.  The active chicks were constantly running over the smaller, weaker ones and interrupting their naps.  Poor little sleepyheads!  I used heavy cardboard to slowly increase their space until they had the full run of the 6'x10' enclosure after several days. 
Mortality has seemed fairly high as I have lost a total of 7 chicks, most within the first week.  Two of those were the white Cochins I was concerned about and also lost two of the Mille Fleur bantams.  The rest were a variety of breeds.  The light went out on Tuesday night of this week, which happened to be a night it chilled off somewhat and we got a little rain.  I nearly lost one of the Brahma banties then, but was able to get it rewarmed before it was too late.

Light Brahma
The slower growing breeds are still cute and don't look too awfully different than they did two weeks ago.

Silver Spangled Hamburg
But the faster growing chicks are just starting into their awkward stage.

Brown Leghorn
Baby chick fluff is being replaced by real feathers.

But the poor little black banties are about a week older than the rest and totally into the awkward, gangly, teenager stage.

White Orpington
Every adolescent wants to stand out from the crowd, and . . . .

Golden-Laced Wyandotte
spread their wings a little.

Dark Brahma and Silver Spangled Hamburg
And everyone likes to hang out and talk with their friends as they find their place in the world.

Until next time, may you be blessed with good friends to help through the awkward moments in life!